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PSEG makes ‘final offer’ to bury power line in Eastport

PSEG Long Island has made a “final” written offer to bury part of a controversial power line recently installed on tall steel poles in Eastport hamlet, according to a letter to public officials who say it’s not specific enough.

In the letter, written two days after a raucous public meeting about the project in Eastport, PSEG vice president John O’Connell told the lawmakers, “We are at a decision point.”

It continues, “ . . . We have proposed an offer to bury the lines through downtown Eastport,” calling it a “final offer.”

Three days later, state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) wrote back to PSEG asking for specifics on where the line would be buried and for documents detailing state approvals that PSEG had received to go ahead with the project.

LaValle and Thiele also have written to the state Public Service Commission to complain that the $31 million project from Riverhead to Eastport on steel poles from 65 to 110 feet high was “undertaken without public outreach” and is “without regard to the character of the Eastport community.”

“The public was just left out here,” Thiele said.

The PSEG letter states that the company obtained “all required and applicable permits” for the project before starting and met “on multiple occasions” with Brookhaven officials to discuss the project and “outreach plans.” Brookhaven Town Councilman Dan Panico has previously called that assertion “an outright lie.” PSEG has said it has “documentation to support” its claim that meetings took place, but has refrained from releasing it “to avoid embarrassing officials.”

A copy of the State Environmental Quality Review by the Long Island Power Authority lists the project as being located in Riverhead and Southampton towns, though much of the project is in the Town of Brookhaven, noted Panico, after reviewing a copy of the document provided to Newsday.

LaValle and Thiele’s letter to the PSC notes that in 2014, then-PSC chairwoman Audrey Zibelman, chief executive of the state Department of Public Service, issued a new set of guidelines specifically for PSEG to follow after similar complaints with tall-pole projects in East Hampton and Port Washington. Among the requirements: PSEG would provide detailed lists of current and future projects so that the state could “ensure that these plans demonstrate a thoughtful approach to aesthetics, consideration of alternate solutions, and provide adequate advance notice of proposed projects.”

Asked why the state did not apply the new guidelines to a project even larger than the one that inspired the rules, a spokesman for DPS said the state took its guidance from the utility.

“PSEG LI did not identify the Eastport to Riverhead project as a project with substantial visual and aesthetic impacts,” the agency said in response to Newsday questions. “As such, the additional oversight by DPS that was specified in Audrey Zibelman’s letter was not deemed necessary.”

PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir wouldn’t respond to the DPS statement, but noted that the state office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation issued an opinion in an August 2016 letter saying the project would have “no impact on archaeological and/or historic resources” listed by the state. He noted the project also was cleared of the need for a draft environmental impact statement because LIPA found it “will not have a significant adverse impact on the environment.”

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